Leftovers: The wild, the innocent, and the Ticketmaster shuffle

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To buy tickets to the 2022-2023 tour of Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, one has to get past the shenanigans of the official sale outlet. 

Here’s what happened when I tried to buy tickets through Ticketmaster for the Feb. 1, 2023, show in Tampa, Florida.

Natalie LaddBut before someone asks why I can’t be satisfied with the one (so far) upcoming date in Boston (as noted here just weeks ago), I need to defend myself. My adorable niece and her musician-husband live in Tampa. They’ve never seen the magic live and I want them to experience a show that will enrich and enhance their lives forever.

And because it’s February.

Like everyone in my inner sphere, they know of my unquenchable obsession with the lyrics; the chemistry of the band; the folklore of my earliest shows seen night after night, all night long, in all corners of the East Coast and Midwest. And like everyone who ever met me, inner sphere or not, they know I’m going to see as many shows as possible during what I believe is the last full North American tour ever of the E Street Band.

My youngest daughter pointed out that I said Bruce’s one-man (with a brief appearance by wife and bandmate Patti Scialfa) Broadway show in 2020-2021 would be his last, as well as the time I said it in 2017.

Number One got dragged to a “last show ever” in 2012 for her 18th birthday. It was in Baltimore and the band played the “Born To Run” album from start to finish. She knew every song by heart because they were mixed in with more traditional lullabies and the theme song from Sesame Street when she was a tot. She’s the one who went to Worcester, Massachusetts, with me in August 1992 for the 1992-1993 World Tour. She danced in the dark in the womb, just seven weeks prior to my due date. 

Ladd t-shirt
A souvenir T-shirt from one of Natalie Ladd’s past encounters with Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band.

I could go on and on listing shows, who went with me, where I was supposed to be and what I was supposed to be doing instead, and more, but the question people ask is how I could afford it.

The answer is diligence. Research, diligence, and once again, obsession. 

Back in the day, before the internet, we would become squatters in front of the box office or big-box stores selling paper tickets. The show date would be announced and it was literally first-come-first-serve. At that time, you could buy tickets for other stops on the same tour. Old-school scalping outside the venue on the night of a show often yielded crappy seats for a not very offensive markup. The offensiveness was reserved for good or great seats, and many people bought them. 

But back to Tampa and my sweetheart of a niece. On the day of the official ticket release for that concert, I was fortunate enough to get Row A seats in a balcony nosebleed section. Row A in any section is my favorite because I am short and because it feels like there’s nothing between me and the stage. Even when I stand up and sing at the top of my off-tune lungs, I’m not bothering anyone. It’s right up there with Fenway Park during a 1 p.m. game and Front Beach in Rockport, Massachusetts, as happy places. 

So, tickets were available on the official Ticketmaster website, during the official Ticketmaster time to buy, at a still-high face-value price when I clicked on them and added them to my cart. I had 3 minutes 59 seconds to pay up. I took 1 minute 10 seconds to text my niece about our “show a little faith” good fortune.

When I went back to the cart with 2 minutes 49 seconds left and hit “Buy Tickets” they showed up priced at three times the original cost. That’s correct, three times as much. At that wildly inflated price, I didn’t have enough money in my debit account for one ticket, let alone two or three. 

I didn’t buy the tickets. Instead, I reached out to Ticketmaster customer service and received an email back about the “dynamic” pricing structure with a claim that only 11.2 percent of tickets sold were in that jacked-up category. Still wounded, I insisted the time frames were proof that the original price should have been honored. Of course, the tickets were long gone by that time and my complaint was just one of 11.2 percent.

I can’t help but take this personally. As it was there was a presale verification process that took place with a secret code, which obviously did little to no good. To date, there hasn’t been a response from Springsteen’s people and I choose to think they would never approve of such measures. After all, Bruce Springsteen is a liberal American hero and after selling the rights to his music catalog, he certainly doesn’t need the money. 

Although deeply disappointed and still waiting for a live person at Ticketmaster to explain it away, I still have reason to believe. After all, this is the last tour.

Natalie Ladd is an award-winning columnist, freelance writer, and Portland restaurant veteran. She loves Boston sports, California cabernets, and has never sampled a cheese she didn’t like. Reach her at [email protected].

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